China’s fast-growing digital economy continues to show its impact on the real estate market, as a local fund manager this week announced a deal to acquire an office building in Beijing’s Zhongguancun area that until recently was home to one of the country’s best-known online startups.
GoHigh Capital says it bought Block D of the Qidi Science and Technology complex in Tsinghua Science and Technology Park for RMB 2.65 billion ($410 million) through a special purpose fund backed by developers Beijing Capital Development and China Jinmao.
The 25-storey property near Wudaokou metro station and Tsinghua University until last year was home to video-sharing app Kuaishou (also known as Douyin) and spans a gross floor area of 46,330 square metres (498,692 square feet), including three additional underground floors.
The seller is a private company based in the eastern province of Shandong, according to a company representative, with GoHigh paying the equivalent of RMB 57,198 ($8,808) per square metre of GFA.
GoHigh regards the price it paid for Block D as a discount to that of comparable office buildings averaging above RMB 70,000 per square metre in the area. Zhongguancun, which hosts a who’s-who of global tech names, has stood out during the COVID-19 pandemic with its tight supply and low vacancy rate.
“We see tech companies continuing to grow, especially domestic ones, with several competing for space that comes available,” said Eric Hirsch, senior director with Cushman & Wakefield in Beijing. “This is especially so for large blocks of space which may come available, and is also why many investors are continuing to seek opportunities in Zhongguancun.”
The GoHigh-managed special purpose fund amounts to RMB 1.2 billion, with the remainder of the transaction to be funded by bank financing. GoHigh said it would likely reposition the building after the acquisition by upgrading the tenant profile and raising rents to improve capital value.
US-based giants Microsoft and Dell Technologies are the best known of Block D’s current tenants. Kuaishou, a TikTok rival whose stock price more than doubled when the company’s shares made their Hong Kong trading debut last month, last year moved to a new corporate campus a few kilometres north in the Shangdi area.
Founded in 2009, Beijing-based GoHigh specialises in value-add, opportunistic and distressed strategies in the commercial property markets of China’s top-tier cities. The firm’s investment track record includes 18 projects with a total asset value exceeding $6.3 billion and GFA of 1.1 million square metres.
In early 2020, GoHigh signed an agreement with Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand Group to set up the RMB 10 billion Urban Regeneration Fund, a 50:50 joint venture for investing in urban renewal projects across China’s largest communities.
Zhongguancun and its vicinity in recent years have witnessed companies converting unloved properties into office space for techies.
In February 2019, Beijing based e-commerce giant JD.com bought an ageing hotel for in the area for RMB 2.68 billion with plans to convert the facility for business and R&D use. Later that same month, TikTok parent ByteDance acquired a failed Beijing shopping centre for a reported RMB 9 billion with an eye towards creating office space.
According to research by property consultancy Colliers, vacancy in Zhongguancun’s Grade A office market has edged up in recent years but remains low.
“By the end of 2020, the vacancy rate of Zhongguancun was only 5.3 percent,” Colliers analysts told Mingtiandi. “Meanwhile, in the past three years, no new Grade A office building projects have entered the market, resulting in a long-term shortage of supply in the whole area.”
As a result, the area cannot satisfy tenants with demand for 5,000 to 10,000 square metres of space, and such tenants have begun to search nearby submarkets like Shangdi, the analysts said.